A PICTURE OF TWO MINDS: An exhibition proposal
The creative verve of the contemporary African artist remains dwarfed by the socio-cultural and political landscape he works in; an environment devoid of basic utilities and infrastructural amenities that allow for ambitious and inspired projects to be borne; as creative minds in a state of peace, begin to grow outwards, no longer at ease with the status quo. In this daunting environment, a few sparks of genius glow in the periphery of the Art scene, albeit occasionally snubbed for being overly ‘foreign’.
A line of thought claims that society has become numbed by the mundane stories painted and praised by the Establishment. ‘No one typifies the trend of mobility and fluidity that is characteristic of our age more than the contemporary African artist (Olu Oguibe, Authentic Ex-centric: Conceptualism in Contemporary African Art (Forum for African Art) pg. 50. Remaining relevant and true to the artistic muse is quite difficult in this same era and place. The original voice of mass Africa is extradited out of the center of things, of aesthetic discourse.
I met Bob-Nosa Uwagbue by chance at the opening of his exhibition a couple of years back in the foyer of the Lagos Business School. The show was arranged like the one I had at the same venue the previous week. We seemed to strike kindred chords in our use of color and distribution of lines and mass shapes. A Picture of Two Minds is a merger of artists who have been united by a shared fate and existential matters. Both artists are deeply rooted in the traditions of their alma mater-the Nsukka Uli School, and the Auchi Colorist School. Their works borrow bits and pieces from the more radical and revolutionary artisms-Surrealism, Abstract expressionism, Dadaism, and artists Basque, Pollock and Miro. The themes stem from familiar situations prevalent in their niche, from a completely fresh perspective. These works have generated critical reviews for their blunt, yet playful puns. Is it an offence to laugh among madmen, to echo society visually? Society seems to frown at faithful mirrors-in particular those that mirror the soul and states of mind.
The works are quite lineal, with provocative color nuances; sympathetic to the works of El Anatsui, Ovraiti, Oguibe, Kainebi, Dilomprizuilike, Ben Osaghae, and Duke Asidere amongst others; to the area street writers, the Onitsha graffiti writers. Like these men, we seek formats to vent the furor in our spirit, the swirl of our brushes. Balance as a visual character is not our prime aim in working, but we investigate internal rhythms held together by a reading of the whole work as the sole reason of being. The themes echo the voices crying under the bridges in this city, living along the beach line, youth trying to gatecrash into the metropolitan party called Lagos Life. The road is unbarred, and we struggle with issues of identity and self, with the conventional rules of engagement in Art, still remembering that conventionalism is close friends to mediocrity.
We present our work, our case files, telling existential stories- the complexities of life here as any of our contemporaries in brother branches can attest to-in music, film and in creative writing. A Picture of Two Minds gives us the podium to deliver our thesis for the way forward, for the creative who truly yearns to be revolutionary in his work, to impact positive change. We see the chaos of being; the aborted dreams; political and social turmoil; and we answer back. Our works are punctuations in poetic verse that contribute moments of introspection and recollection; periods of enlightenment and the salutary emotions that come with knowing. All knowledge of Art is sacred, precise and directed outwards. This is necessary, for Art is a physical affecting the senses, occupying space in time. The craftsmanship of the artist will assure of more or less engagement with the audience, and birth, hopefully-pleasure. Before Art, we must be prepared to experience, as in all other events in life. Definitely, some pieces in this show will please, appease, or even repel-but there will be an emotive response. We humbly present A Picture of Two Minds, as an antithesis of what contemporary Nigerian Art has become over the years.
This exhibition is addressed to the creative bored with the status quo, which in their hearts yearn to unfurl their genius and live their dream. In a foreword to an exhibition titled 6 New Painters from Nsukka (Nsofor participated in that show in 1997), Chika Okeke-Agulu stated that ‘even if it is too early to ascertain the course which their art may take now that they have begun the unending search for eloquence. The artists seek professional integrity in their work, and refuse to slip under the cloak of commerciality where Art becomes a mere commodity for exchange of naira and kobo. Art must yield to higher values.